If you have cell phone service in the US, there is a 1/3 chance that your service is Verizon Wireless. You may also be aware that Verizon bought AOL in June. Whenever a merger and acquisition happens, there are bound to be changes, such is the case with this one. Verizon already knows a lot about their members, and their browsing habits. If you go to AOL sites like the Huffington Post, they will know more.
Not surprisingly, Verizon has announced they are combining advertising systems with the AOL Network beginning in November. This gives Verizon an edge, by providing specifics and giving them even more information about you. Keep in mind that both of these networks are fairly large, and the combination of these two networks fills in gaps that may be in each one of them.
Many do not realize that they already monitor most of their network extensively, anyway. They do this with the use of a permanent cookie. According to Verizon, this is because of their Relevant Mobile Advertising program. That means the network puts a cookie on almost all web traffic to follow you wherever you go. If they see an opportunity to show a relevant ad, they will not miss the chance to do so.
After months of complaints, Verizon states they are finally scaling back on their RMA program. Instead of placing a cookie on all of your non-encrypted traffic, it will only add the cookie to data specifically sent to Verizon and AOL sites. Included in that are designated “partner sites” that help the combination network provide service there. If the advertisers want to see a certain group to show an ad, Verizon will show them that group of people, based on their browsing habits.
If you are a Verzizon user, there are several ways of protecting yourself. The first thing you want to do is go to the Verizon privacy settings. We mentioned earlier that they attached the supercookie to data that was not encrypted. If your data was encrypted though, you would not have to be so concerned. The best and most effective way to encrypt your mobile browsing is by using a VPN when surfing the web. With Apple bringing privacy more to light, especially with ad blockers, companies are doing all they can to make sure you get to see the ads they want you to see. Don’t be surprised if you see more advertising on Verizon’s network, instead of less, at least if you are not using a VPN.